|Watching the world go by: Custormers find Muoi Sau restaurant an open and cool place for summers.
|Recipes handed down: Pham Xuan Thanh prepares food. — VNS Photos Truong Vi
Muoi Sau Restaurant
Address: 16 Ngo Thi Nham Street, Hoan Kiem Dist, Ha Noi
Tel: 043 822 7229/090 435 9813
Price: VND10,000-20,000 per glass (US$50 cents to $1)
Comment: Affordable prices for cooling drinks.
Che is a sweet dessert made from a variety of ingredients with great textures, mostly using a sticky clear liquid made from the powdered root of a creeper. Compotes are also a big hit. Ha Nguyen
reports on a local outlet.It was a hot summer day. My friend from the northern province of Cao Bang, who was on a business trip to Ha Noi, asked me to take her for a glass of che (sweet pudding) to ease the effects of the heat.
We decided on a che shop at the intersection of Ngo Thi Nham and Le Van Huu streets. At first, my friend declined because the premise was so small and customers had to sit on the pavement.
But while discussing the matter, many customers came in and ordered glasses of different types of che. Impressed, my friend said the food must be good.
We ordered two glasses of che sen (lotus seeds in syrup with ice) worth VND15,000 each, a drink popular with women. The proprietor, Pham Xuan Thanh, said June was the main season for lotus and that the dish was particularly good for helping students through exams.
Lotus seeds can be cooked with green or red beans and sugar added. The drink is cooling and nutritious. "The secret of making lotus che tastier is to add a little fragrant pomelo skin to it," said Thanh.
Lotus seeds and a type of mushroom are common ingredients to make soup to promote the immune system and be used as a sedative. Thanh said women wanting healthy skin should drink juice squeezed from fresh lotus seeds. He orders his seeds fresh from West Lake in Ha Noi and the central province of Hue.
"Our shop is always ready to take orders and make home deliveries," said Thanh. "We attract crowds because the recipes for our che have been in the family for more than 50 years."
Thanh's cousin, Vu Thi Minh Chan, 60, is the main cook. She knows about customers' taste because she helped her mother for many years.
While we were drinking our che, a couple of foreigners came in and ordered two bowls of xoi vo (glutinous rice cooked with crushed green bean). We were surprised and asked them how they knew about xoi vo, which is traditional Vietnamese. They said their friends told them to try it.
"It's really tasty and delicious. The glutinous rice is so fragrant and soft. Vietnamese dishes are great," they said, adding that they would buy a kilo of xoi vo for VND50,000 and take it home.
For those not familiar with the dish, che is a collective noun for different types of sweet pudding made from a variety of different ingredients, mostly using a sticky clear liquid made from bot san, the powdered root of a creeper (kudzu) mixed with water and sugar.
Some are made with fruit, others with beans, sago and tapioca. The mixtures come in a rainbow of colours and have some great textures. According to a customer's taste, vendors will spoon a little bit of favoured cheø (or a bit of all on offer) into a glass until it is filled with a patchwork of patterns and colours. This is topped up with coconut milk and ice.
Thanh said his shop welcomes many foreigners, including many from Japan and backpackers. "They are interested in all of our dishes, including green and black bean compotes, com xao (grilled green rice flakes), banh troi (floating cake made from brown sugar wrapped in glutinous rice paste and cooked by scalding in boiling water) and che kho (soft green-lentil cake).
We ordered a third glass of che called che tran chau or (tapioca pearls). They are little round blobs of tapioca that look like tiny dumplings with a chunk of coconut inside.
Thanh's shop opens from 7am until 10.30pm, "but we often close very late in summer with the busiest hours from 3pm". — VNS